For a brief moment in 2008, Team Obama had its sights set on Arizona, the home state of GOP nominee John McCain that has since become a hotbed of far-right state-level legislation. Now Team Obama is gearing up to make the state a major test of their ability to leverage Latino frustration with the GOP.
Republicans have scoffed at the notion that Arizona is in play. Pay no attention to the Latino vote-mobilizing debate over SB 1070 or the new Obama campaign focus, says RNC Chairman Reince Priebus: Arizona is as red as ever.
On a conference call with reporters Monday announcing a Latino outreach initiative for the RNC, Priebus explained that Republicans aren’t sweating Arizona this fall — despite signs that the Democrats are ready to spend big to fight for voters there.
“The Obama team is setting up a mirage that somehow Arizona is going to be an Obama state or in play,” Priebus said. “It’s a Republican state, it’s a red state. We’re going to be there, obviously it’s not going to be ignored at all, but to put it in the category of a targeted or battleground state is a mindset that we’re not adhering to right now.”
Priebus and a Hispanic outreach director announced plans to put Republican state directors in charge of identifying and engaging the Latino vote on the ground in six battleground states: Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina and Virginia. When a reporter noted Arizona, which has a large Latino population, was absent from the list, Priebus said that the GOP views the state as firmly in its camp.
Team Obama isn’t so sure. Though staff acknowledge winning Arizona is an uphill climb, they point to the battle over SB 1070, the state’s divisive anti-illegal immigrant legislation, as part of the reason Obama has a shot there. The campaign told TPM on Monday it has opened five offices across Arizona and says it is giving the state the full Obama treatment when it comes to identifying, registering and activating voters. This time, with likely nominee Mitt Romney carrying some serious baggage with Latinos according to polling — the Obama is planning to give the same treatment to Arizona the campaign successfully gave to other states across the Southwest.
Democrats in Arizona are confident SB 1070 has gone a long way toward activating the Democratic base vote in the state. Obama took on the law in an interview with Univision over the weekend. Romney’s campaign has close ties with two of the men most responsible for SB 1070, and Democrats have tried to associate Romney with the law itself. Obama made the case in the Univision interview.
“We now have a Republican nominee who said that the Arizona laws are a model for the country, that — and these are laws that potentially would allow someone to be stopped and picked up and asked where their citizenship papers are based on an assumption,” Obama said.
Last year, the Arizona state House’s Democratic leader told TPM that the law is one of several factors leading the blue part of the state to turn out more than ever before.
“There is a change happening,” state Rep. Chad Campbell (D) said in November. “I don’t think it’s a change in terms of Arizona itself. I’m a native, and Arizona’s always been a pretty middle of the road state, it’s always been pretty centrist — it’s just a change in who’s getting out to vote now.”